DAYTON, Ohio — In a physical battle between two of college hockey’s most successful programs, the Michigan State Spartans scored three second-period goals in a seven-minute span en route to a 3-0 win over No. 7 North Dakota.
With the win, the Spartans (2-0-0) secured the fifth annual Lefty McFadden Invitational championship, and goaltender Dominic Vicari extended his shutout streak to 119 minutes, 51 seconds, making 27 saves.
“Some shutouts are easier than others, and he had to make three or four saves there at the end to earn that shutout,” said Michigan State head coach Rick Comley, referring to a flurry of action around Vicari in the final moments of the game.
“It’s always good to get a shutout,” added Vicari, “but when we play a team as highly ranked as North Dakota, it feels really good. You just have to keep focused because you know a team like that never gives up.”
The sudden outburst of offense by Michigan State came as a surprise after a physical, defensive first period. However, in the second period, the Spartans took the advantage with their special-teams play. Three seconds after a power play expired, captain Drew Miller fed sophomore center Chris Mueller, who came around the net and sneaked a wraparound bid underneath UND goaltender Philippe Lamoureux.
“Millsy and I were down low, battling,” described Mueller. “I walked it out and just threw it on net. I just kept my feet moving. When you throw it on net, good things happen.”
Less than five minutes later, with the Sioux on the power play, the Spartans took full advantage of a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. Sophomore Bryan Lerg raced along the right boards and slid the puck to senior David Booth, who knocked it past Lamoureux for a 2-0 lead.
Exactly two minutes later, this time with the Spartans on the power play, Mueller scored his second goal of the game, tipping a one-time shot from Colton Fretter past a screened Lamoureux.
“He just couldn’t score last year, and he was very frustrated,” said Comley. “Very hard-working kid, and he got rewarded tonight with two goals.”
Three goals were more than enough for Vicari and the Michigan State defense, which also killed off all seven North Dakota power plays, including two five-minute chances resulting from major penalties on the Spartans for checking from behind.
“We have to learn from games like this,” said North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol. “We didn’t come out and execute very well. A lot of the credit goes to Michigan State. They did a very good job of taking time and space away from us.”
“I think we have a pretty good team, even though we have three defensemen hurt,” added Comley. “This game was an opportunity for us to play a team highly respected and to see how we match up.”
The Sioux (1-1-0) will look to rebound when they host Northeastern for a pair of games next weekend. Meanwhile, the Spartans will host Western Ontario for an exhibition contest before traveling to rival Michigan for their first CCHA game of the season in two weeks.